Just as the 29er movement was exploding, Giant stood firm in its belief that bigger wheels were not a replacement for the good ol’ 26-inch standard. As large wheels became de rigueur for most other brands, Giant began to dangle off the back of the pack, both in progression and image. Sure, its full suspension bikes benefitted from the highly effective Maestro design, but in a market where buyers were scooping up 29ers like pelicans over a lazy school of fish Giant’s tide seemed to be retreating fast. Eventually the company dabbled in 29ers which performed well but weren’t the most popular choices among fashionable buyers.
Then something changed within what appeared to be a very conservative brand: it went full tilt into the 27.5 wheel market for 2014. No more 26ers and a very few 29ers (which have also been hinted at as going away.) Giant became the first big brand to fully commit to the middle wheel size and if the new models are any indication it may well have just catapulted to an off-the-front breakaway.
Giant’s Maestro suspension system has two linkages that create a floating pivot point. This allows the 100mm travel design to work independently of pedaling and braking forces without giving up anti-squat capabilities. Since its inception this has been one of my favorites. It doesn’t squat and bob under acceleration nor does it stiffen under heavy braking—all this while doing an admirable job smoothing the roughest trails and sharpest square edged hits.
Giant has entered a new level of production, taking a page from another major company’s playbook by sourcing its own components. But in this case Giant is able to up the ante by making everything in its own factory. Giant has more than 25 years experience engineering and creating carbon frames and components for both itself and many other bike brands. The carbon stem, handlebar and seatpost are works of art and the ultra-light carbon rims come tubeless ready, sealing up quickly and easily.
Our $8,250 Anthem Advanced 27.5 0 Team is Giant’s ultimate expression of what a cross-country race bike should be. It has a carbon front triangle, alloy rear triangle and is decked out in full SRAM XX1 dressing with a 100mm RockShox SID XX fork.
Look for a full, long-term review in the next issue of Dirt Rag. As you might guess, it looks as good as it performs but for now we’ll just leave it at that.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the fork spec.